Monday, December 15, 2008

Challenge to Coalition Objectors

If you disapprove of the coalition and think the Liberal leadership was wrong to have been involved in it, please tell me what you think they should have done. Their options were:

1. Support the government by voting in favor of the economic update and all its components (abolishing public financing for political parties, asserting that there would be no fiscal stimulus for the economy, suspension of civil service strikes, cessation of negotiation over pay equity).

2. Bring down the government, triggering another election (barely seven weeks after the last election, which would have been political suicide).

3. Exert pressure on the government with the credible threat of a coalition.

Keep in mind:

* The coalition has never been more than a threat.
* It was impossible to have a coalition threat without involving the Bloc.
* Harper has still not backed down on any of the economic update's components. He has carefully worded his comments to say things may be off the table for now, but made no commitment to keep them off the table.



Colin said...

Option 4 - Have all the opposition parties independently express their dissatisfaction with the economic update, and then when the government backed off, agree to a fair compromise.

This would have been a win-win for the Liberals. The more they try and compromise, the more collaborative they look and the more appealing they are to the Canadian public. Then they would have earned the right to wave the banner of how they are willing to put the country first and NOT have it look like a power grab.

Problem with this option is that Dion wouldn't have had a chance to become PM.

Colin said...

* Harper has still not backed down on any of the economic update's components. He has carefully worded his comments to say things may be off the table for now, but made no commitment to keep them off the table

Of course they're not off the table. The end of public funding is coming, it's just a matter of when. It's too unpopular with the public to stay.

And they never said there wouldn't be economic stimulus - they just said the billions already promised for now, and more as things progress down south. Some people think it's wise to piggyback a Canadian package with the American one that will be coming in January.

As for the other two - that's where compromise comes in. Let one of the components pass.

This would have actually built the respect of the Liberal party in the eyes of Canadians.

Yappa said...

Hi Colin,

Thanks for the comment. The opposition parties have been expressing a lot of dissatisfaction over three years. Harper knew they weren't a threat. In this case, 6 weeks after an election and with the Liberals in the midst of a leadership campaign, he felt especially secure that they wouldn't stand up to him. Mere words were not going to have one iota of influence on him.

As I've said before, if the Liberals don't stand up to Harper they're called wimps; if they do stand up to Harper they're called power-grubbing opportunists. We can't keep accepting the Harper PR machine spin on things.

Ted said...

Option 5 - The NDP and the Liberals come up with 5-10 points of agreement, list of items where the Fiscal Update failed, and the Bloc separately (and most definitely not on the same stage) announces that they agree that Harper has failed Quebecers. The "united opposition" is ready to bring down this government.

Remember, Harper caved on the anti-union and political fundraising crap before the coalition was formed. We had him running on the Friday and Saturday morning of that week with a unified opposition independently going completely and beligerently nuts on him. That is what scared him.

So if he goes to the GG or gets voted down, THEN you show the full agreement and get the BQ's acknowledgement that they won't support a non-confidence vote for 1.5 years. Or he cancels Parliament without an excuse and is 100% toast.

The coalition only gave him an out, an excuse for his anti-democratic cancellation of opposition days and cancellation of Parliament. And worse for us, it is an excuse that the country accepts and believes in.

When you are playing poker and you think you have your opponent frantic and worried, you don't show him all of your cards to show him just how scared he should be.

Yappa said...

Hi Colin again -

Did you listen to Flaherty delivering the economic update? He spent most of his time arguing against a stimulus package - not advising that we should wait and coordinate, but flatly saying that he did not believe the government should do anything about the economy. He went further and said that he would cut funding by $4.3B next year, and then said this would result in a budget surplus in 2009. Supporting this economic update would have been supporting a right-wing ideological refusal to stimulate the economy and to go against every other developed nation as well as the IMF. It was insupportable.

As to abolishing public financing of political parties, I doubt many Canadians (including you) understand the issue. To remove any self-interest from the discussion, think of it this way: when Canada advises developing nations in how to form democratic institutions, one of the things we propose is strict laws on political donations coupled with public subsidies for parties. This balances the two goals of preventing influence pedaling and having an open, diversified political system. You don't want the Pakistani parliament to only contain representatives from an oil rich province, for example; you want it to represent all the people.

Yappa said...

Hi Ted -

It's a great idea, but I don't think it would have worked. Harper wouldn't have taken it seriously. His ace in the hole was that it would have been suicide for the opposition to force an election so soon after the last, backed by a widespread belief that nobody would stand behind Dion. They had to have a way to knock him down without calling an election. Had the non-confidence vote happened, the only way the GG could avoid calling an election is if the opposition could prove that they could form an alternative government. It might have worked, had Dion not been so unbelievably incompetent. His hissy fit in parliament really killed the plan, even as a threat. The late and fuzzy tape was just the last straw.

I don't really buy this Harper backing down argument either. He was so careful in his wording to say that he would remove items "from the ecoomic update" or "for the moment". It might have convinced some people he was backing down, but the opposition leadership knew he wasn't.

Ron said...

The problem started getting out of control when Dion's ambition to be PM boiled over. It is one thing to hold the boogyman threat of a coaliton over a PM's head - it is a totally different thing to announce the coalition, sign the documents and commit to defeating the government - that was going way too far. What they should have done is acknowledge their victory at making Harper back down on some items in the speech and go back to their corner to fight another day. Harper would then have been squeezed to come up with a budget the opposition could accept or face the prospect of having to back down on another item or two when the coalition boogyman was hauled out again. Greed destroyed this options. Liberals launched their attack and failed miserably. The coalition is now dead, they have nothing to hold over Harper's head - does anyone really and truly think they can defeat the budget and have the GG appoint them as Government after the public has made it very clear they do not favour that choice? The Liberals are in a serious corner right now - if Harper introduces a budget most Canadians deem to be reasonable, Ignatieff must support it - to do anything else would result in an election where he would have to run as the Leader of the Coalition, not Leader of the Liberal Party - the election would be a referendum on the coalition and nothing else. What they should have done is keep the NDP and Bloc dangling and the threat of a possible gang-up and defeat of government in their back pocket. What they did was launch their one and only weapon to see it land as an unmitigated dud in public opinion.

Yappa said...

Hi Ron -

I sort of agree with you, except I'm not sure that an empty threat of a coalition would have been effective. I think there was a need to have the agreement signed before the non-confidence vote or the vote would have resulted in an election.

Also, I don't think Dion was making a big grab for glory. Just the opposite: he was setting himself up to be the whipping boy of the Conservatives (even more than before).

As to the rest of your argument, you might very well be right - I hope Ignatieff can pull us out of this situation, but I'm not sure how he can.

Bert said...

74% voted NO to a Dion govt..
82% voted NO to a Layton govt..
90% voted NO to a Duceppe govt..

And you REALLY think Canadians want a coalition ?

Yappa said...

Hi Bert,

The important fact, and the only one that means anything legally or constitutionally, is that a majority of the representatives in parliament are not Conservatives. A minority government has to have the support of the opposition MPs to remain in power.

I respect the fact that you're a Conservative and that you support Harper, but do you really think that his Nov 28 economic update was a good approach, or that the opposition parties should have voted for it? Harper presented it as a confidence motion so he knew that if they didn't vote for it his government would fall. He knew that the opposition had two options in that case: another election (which would have been political suicide for them, so soon after the last) or a coalition. He over-reached and forced this situation to happen. I don't know about the NDP or Bloc, but this is not what the Liberal party wanted.